Time To Repair

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chapter 12

Rame, Cornwall England, Wednesday August 6th 2262

20:20:41 hours

Larry Groom and Spencer Billington-Smythe were seated on the grand terrace of The Sunflower Inn. During the summer months no one really sat inside the comparatively smaller public house.

Spencer wore a loose fitting short-sleeve shirt; which was completely black apart from one red sleeve, baggy black trousers and black leatherette flip-flops. The shapeless dark clothing helped conceal his tall emaciated frame. His short, yet thick black hair was swept over his head from right to left and held in place with static-spray.

Following his mother’s passing the previous year, he had changed his surname and added her maiden name, Smythe, to his as a mark of respect. They hadn’t just been mother and son, but the best of friends too.

Spencer, having had no luck in love or his career, had never moved out of the family mansion in Bristol.

His mother, Gloria, and father, Pete, divorced when he was still in schooling. Gloria had done very well with the divorce settlement and had also managed to turnaround the family’s failing bulk-load Teleportation Company. Sadly this had been at the cost of the relationship between father and son. Pete blamed Spencer for everything; including the demise of his marriage. It had been many years since Spencer had heard anything from him. He had failed to turn up at Gloria’s funeral; something Spencer would never forgive him for.

Spencer now lived alone in the family mansion on a good monthly allowance. Gloria had ensured managers were in place long before she died; knowing Spencer would have never coped with running the business or the estate. Any job or venture he had undertaken over the years always ended in disaster.

Larry, for a change, had donned a much loved, but now faded white T-shirt that displayed all the dates of the Shayhortz concerts from the 2258 tour on the back, and a three-dimensional image of the group on the front. He had baggy mauve linen shorts and leatherette sandals, both of which had also seen better days. Larry wasn’t bothered about his rough and ready look; his long unkempt mousey hair and stubbly face were a customary part of his appearance. Whether you saw him day or night, work or play, he generally looked the same.

The decked terrace was large enough to hold the twenty or so traditional square hardwood tables and bench seats without feeling cramped or that you were sitting too close to other parties for comfort. Most of the tables were taken; people from all over the world were enjoying the last of the day’s sun which was dropping rapidly, heading closer all the time to the glistening cerulean waters of the European Channel. The chatter and laughter from the patrons was sufficiently low that it didn’t upstage the relaxing noise of the waves gently breaking onto the beach some twenty metres below.

Larry and Spencer had port in to the Inn’s teleporter six minutes earlier; only thirty seconds apart. Simon had been due to arrive third but had failed to show up as yet.

One of the many waiters, that rushed between the bar, terrace and kitchens, had shown the pair to a table in a corner next to an elegant timber balustrade that separated the chunky decked floor boards from the drop to the beach below. Spencer had politely declined ordering their first drink having decided to wait for Simon’s arrival.

“Where is he!?” Asked Spencer impatiently; for the second time in the last three minutes. “Shall we call him?”

“Let’s give him a few more minutes before we do anything,” Larry replied. “He’s probably just running late on his first day at the new job.”

“Perhaps,” Spencer said with a loud sigh. “Not like him though; he’s usually very punctual.”

He paused for a few seconds. “I’m gagging for a drink.”

“Well you shouldn’t have told the waiter that we would wait then!” Larry snapped, more than a bit irritated at Spencer’s endless wittering on about Simon’s lack of arrival.

“Ooh get you; you mardy mare!” Spencer exclaimed loudly, gesticulating with his arms in his usual manner. “Some of us know how to be civilised and polite… obviously some of us don’t!” He looked down his nose at his friend on the other side of the table.

“Well if he’s not here in two minutes, I’m going to be rather rude and get a large beer in, with or without you joining me,” Larry informed him.

“Peasant!” Spencer declared loudly.

Larry smiled and crossed his arms across his chest. “Bitch,” he retorted.

“Shall I see if they have a spittoon for you too?” Spencer quipped.

Larry laughed loudly, Spencer joining in after a few seconds unable to keep a straight face.

“I’ll just gob in your face if I feel the need to clear my mouth of excess phlegm,” Larry informed him, when he’d managed to compose himself.

“Best offer I’ve had all day matey!” Spencer replied.

They both laughed again.

Simon, Spencer and Larry had known each other since they were very young. They had grown up in Bristol together and had remained the closest of friends from infancy to adult.

They had seen less of each other as they left home in turn, met up with partners, or started careers; but the bond between them was unbreakable. If other parties outside the group disliked it then frankly that was their problem. At some point over the years all three of them had ended relationships with people that couldn’t deal with their special bond and had tried to break it up in one way or another.

The lads had decided a number of years back that they would meet up a minimum of once a week to keep their friendship alive. After awhile this had turned out to be religiously on a Wednesday; the three even planned the rest of their week around the Lad’s Night Out.

The door to the transporter slid open. Simon stepped out into the narrow back corridor of The Sunflower Inn and checked his dat-com strap - he was over eight minutes late. He had missed his scheduled port slot when, after his meal, he’d stepped onto the veranda with another lager and his mind had wandered back to the meeting with Anna Chillipoc. Before he knew it the minutes had rushed by at what seemed twice the normal speed, and his port slot had expired three minutes previously. He was furious with himself and with her all over again. He’d then had to wait a further four minutes for a free slot. He didn’t normally need an alert to remind him about port slots, but if he was going to have days like today, then it may be something he would have to set up with Columbus, the company behind teleportation and responsible for worldwide teleport slots.

To his right were what must have been the kitchens, judging by the sound of the hustle and bustle from behind the steel double doors. At that point, and as if to confirm Simon’s thoughts, they shot apart with a loud whoosh disappearing into the wall either side at high speed.

A smartly dressed waiter emerged seconds later balancing a number of meals precariously over his arms. Simon stepped back against the wall as the guy breezed past. This was his first time in the Inn that Spencer had chosen, so he decided to follow him.

Before long he found himself in a virtually empty bar. Numerous busy waiters of varying nationalities, and all wearing the same uniform, were receiving and placing drinks orders from the bar staff who were just as rushed off their feet. The low solar windows at the end of the room revealed where all the patrons were. Simon crossed the room and stepped out onto the terrace. He glanced left and right but couldn’t see his friends among the countless tables of people. He looked more thoroughly to his right and then turned left again.

“COOOEEEEE SIMON!” Spencer shrieked across the terrace.

Oh jeez, Simon thought as he closed his eyes. Spencer had a thing about embarrassing him and Larry in public as often as he could; he found it highly amusing.

The chatter and the volume of the other customers dropped significantly and numerous people turned in the direction of the loud outburst.

Simon followed their gaze and spotted Spencer standing behind a table in the corner waving his arms about frantically. Larry was sitting opposite him with his back to everyone, he held his head in his hands. Simon gave a quick embarrassed smile and rushed forward before Spencer could shriek again.

“Ooh Simon, great to see you; we didn’t think you were coming!” Spencer declared loudly as he threw his arms around his friend. Simon stood there still recovering from the initial outburst.

“Give me a hug then you big brute!” Spencer demanded.

Simon put his arms round his friend and squeezed him tightly feeling every rib and bone. The two were around the same height but Spencer was half Simon’s weight. His mum probably had a bigger build; no wonder she kept trying to fatten him up with her food-parcel ports.

“Hello Spendy,” Simon said affectionately as Spencer breathed in the Bitterness from his neck.

“You smell gorgeous!” he remarked as they kissed cheeks.

“Thanks mate,” Simon replied as he peeled himself away from his affectionate friend. As Spencer sat down Larry rose from his side of the table.

“Hi ya Si.”

“Evening Laz.”

The pair kissed cheeks and swapped manly pats on the back in a fraction of the time it had taken to greet Spencer.

“What, no lager?” enquired Simon as he sat at the end of the table against the wall. “Has the hostelry run dry?”

“I insisted that we did the right thing and wait for you,” Larry said with a sideways glance toward Spencer. “Greedy guts over there said stuff Simon, let’s get a swift one in before he gets here.”

“You lying swine!” Spencer shrieked loudly. “I think Si knows which one of us is polite and proper, and which of us has the good manners and etiquette of a whore in a brothel.”

Simon laughed loudly at the banter from the pair. “While you girls bitch-fight, I’m going to order a drink; I’m spitting feathers.”

Simon glanced over his right shoulder to find a waiter. He caught the eye of one at a nearby table who acknowledged him with a nod before disappearing inside with a tray of empty glasses.

“Why were you late then Si?” asked Larry, discreetly winking at Spencer across the table.

“I lost track of the time after thinking about the lousy end to my first day,” Simon admitted.

“We were discussing the possible reasons for you not being here just before you turned up,” Spencer proclaimed.

“Yes,” agreed Larry with as straight a face as he could manage. “We had come to the conclusion that with the new high-power job you probably had new friends and didn’t want to mix with the likes of us anymore… being at the bottom of the food chain now.”

“We were about to head back to Bristol and drown our sorrows…” Spencer elaborated on the tale with a mock sniff to feign sadness “…and try not to think of all the happy times”. He bit his bottom lip and turned his head away to stifle a laugh.

“I was about to call our old chum Rakesh, from our schooling days and see if he’d somehow manage to fill those big shoes of yours,” Larry continued with a sigh. “Spendy reminded me then that he’s been sent down.”

Spencer snorted as he tried to conceal his laughter.

“Jeez, you two,” Simon said with chuckle. “Is this the best you can come up with in eight minutes?”

The two fell about laughing; Simon joined in - this was the best he had felt all day.

After a minute he said. “Rakesh, I’m insulted! That thieving cretin was hardly a good friend, and certainly no substitute for me.”

“Well desperate times call for desperate measures,” Spencer quipped. They all laughed again.

The waiter suddenly appeared next to them.

“Vhot can I get yous gentlemen?” he asked. His accent was German, his English was perfect.

“Well I don’t know about these girls,” said Simon gesturing towards his friends. “But I would like a large Carlsberg Extreme please.”

“Thank you Sir,” the waiter said before turning to Larry.

“I’ll have the same please,” Larry said without a seconds thought.

“Oh go on then; me too!” chimed in Spencer.

The waiter smiled and then left for the bar.

“He was nice!” Spencer declared, following the waiter with his eyes as he weaved in and out of the surrounding tables.

“Tart!” Larry and Simon said in unison.

“I’m definitely going to check his status on my strap when he returns,” Spencer informed them with a grin.

“Have you seen anyone you like the look of Laz?” Simon asked, quickly scanning the surrounding tables.

“There’s a pretty little filly behind me; a couple of tables back,” Larry confirmed. “She’s with two guys and another woman.”

“Yeah, I see her,” Simon said, trying not to make it too obvious he was looking. “Green ankle length summer dress, short brown hair?”

Larry looked over his right shoulder. “Not that table you fool!” He turned back and added. “She’s got a face a dog wouldn’t lick.”

The three of them laughed at one of Larry’s ancient but much loved jokes.

“She’s not that bad,” Simon said taking a second glance.

“Well you’re the single hetero at the table, you ask her out then,” Larry replied.

“She’s not really my type,” Simon admitted.

“As I said, a bit of a hound,” Larry confirmed.

“I think she is quite sweet,” Spencer butted in. “Not a real beauty queen, but charming all the same…” He paused. “Don’t you think she looks a lot like that girl you went out with some years back Si? You know… that one.” He did the speech marks with his fingers in the air as he spoke.

All three of them turned again to look at the woman in green.

“Oh yeah!” Larry exclaimed with a grin. “What was her name again?” He added, pretending to have forgotten.

“Thursday!” Spencer screeched excitedly. “It could be her twin sister!”

“That’s it!” Larry responded. “The mad scientist, Maundy Thursday!” He and Spencer laughed aloud. Simon wasn’t impressed, he knew better than to show any sort of response though.

Thursday Hughes, or Maundy Thursday as Spencer and Larry had nicknamed her because of her unhealthy sexual obsession with feet; was an ex-girlfriend of Simon’s from some fifteen or sixteen years back. They had dated for a few months but then she became increasingly weird, and very clingy.

He ended their relationship abruptly one night after finding out that she had told his family and friends they were to be married. Thursday however, wouldn’t accept it was over and turned up the next morning as if the previous night never occurred.

She had made his life a misery; it took many months for her to accept it was over. She would just turn up unannounced with a mixed bag of emotions and make a complete spectacle of herself. She’d thrown herself at him many times and, in one weak drunken moment, he had given in and made love to her again. A few days later she suddenly stopped her bombardment and, thankfully, appeared to have moved on. He hadn’t heard from her since. Her family hadn’t been very polite when he’d contacted them to check that she was okay; he could only imagine what she had said to them. Her father informed him that she had gone to live in Spain.

“She looks nothing like Thursday,” Simon said coolly. “Give me some credit at least,” he added with a grin.

“I suppose she was slightly better looking than that,” Larry admitted.

“Who were you referring to if it wasn’t her then?” Simon asked, trying to steer the conversation away from Thursday Hughes.

“I meant the young lass at the table next to Thursday’s twin; the one in the orange and red striped number.”

Simon and Spencer both looked over.

“Yes, definitely a lot better than the older woman in the green,” Simon agreed.

“They’re not just bits of meat for you to mull over,” Spencer said indignantly. “Anyone would think we were back in the twenty-first century the way you two are acting.”

“But it’s okay for you to check out the German waiter’s arse as he went off to get our drinks?” Larry pointed out.

Spencer went bright red. “I’m not ripping him apart or comparing him to other guys though am I!”

“Let’s see what he has to say about it,” Simon said turning to face the approaching waiter. “Here he is with our lager.”

“Don’t you dare Si!” Spencer hissed under his breath in a panic.

The waiter put the tray of lager on the table and proceeded to remove them, placing one in front of each of them.

“Excuse me…” Simon checked his strap; it displayed some of the German waiter’s details. “Joshka, would you mind if I ask you something?”

Joshka looked unperturbed at the request. “Ov course not.”

“My friend over here,” Simon started, pointing to Spencer; ignoring the sharp kick to his ankle from him. “Was just wondering…” He paused a second to build up the tension. “Have you... worked here long?”

Spencer breathed out a quiet sigh of relief, his face burning up from the pressure. Simon and Larry both smiled.

“I have been living and vurking here fors about six veeks now,” Joshka answered.

“What part of Germany are you from?” asked Larry, feeling it only polite to try and show genuine interest.

“Originally I come from Leipzig, but I ’ave travelled the vorld for the last five and half years; vurking in all different places.”

“Well that’s something none of us have done,” Simon contributed.

Joshka smiled as the short conversation seemed to come to a natural end. “Can I take your thumb prints pleez?” he asked.

Larry, Simon and Spencer all placed their thumb in turn onto the face of Joshka’s dat-com strap, confirming and paying for the drink they had just received. Joshka smiled again, picked up the tray and returned inside to the bar.

“Ooh you pig!” Spencer screeched at Simon.

Simon and Larry fell about laughing. Spencer wasn’t amused.

“Your face…” gasped Larry, “was a… was a… picture!”

“I’ve got a stitch,” wheezed Simon holding his left side.

“Good!” Spencer said triumphantly picking up his glass. “You’re both pigs!” He took a long gulp of lager as his friends continued to laugh.

After another minute they had composed themselves enough to take a drink.

“In all the embarrassment I forgot to check his status,” Spencer said.

“I did,” replied Simon putting his glass down on the table with a thud.

“Well?” Spencer said impatiently.

“Weeeell,” Simon said, dragging it out for as long as possible. He picked up his lager again and took a long slow swig much to Larry’s amusement and Spencer’s frustration. He put the glass down.

“Ahh, that was good.”

“Si!” Spencer exclaimed.

Simon smiled. “Well his status was showing….” He tapped his fingers loudly on the table creating a drum roll. “Single heterosexual!”

“Just my luck,” Spencer said with disappointment. “It’s the story of my life.”

“Me too,” agreed Larry. “The lass in the orange and red stripes is showing married.

“Do I need to remind you that you too are married?” Spencer declared. “The status of the young lady over there shouldn’t make any difference to you.”

“It doesn’t,” agreed Larry. “I was merely pointing out that if I were single and on the market the girl of my dreams over there is married.”

“Girl of your dreams!” repeated Spencer. “I wonder what your beautiful wife Tulip would make of that.

“You know what I mean,” said Larry with a frown.

“Perhaps we should call her and ask her opinion,” Simon suggested innocently.

“Very funny… I think not!” Larry countered.

Larry had never been one for settling down. He’d never thought about anything long term, and definitely didn’t believe in love at first sight. Then, eight years ago, he had met the ginger haired, freckled little Irish girl, Tulip.

They’d been together ever since, and been married for the last three of those years.

Their relationship had always been hot and fiery… well, Tulip was the hot and fiery one, Larry was just Larry; laid back to the point of being comatose.

They should never have worked as a couple; everyone had said right from the start that they would fail - they were just too opposite.

At least once a fortnight there would be a huge bust up over something or other; normally Larry had done or said something, or not done or said something. He rarely got angered enough to argue back; he would just sit there patiently while she let off steam and then apologise and remind her how much he loved her. She would melt into his big arms and that would be the end of it; until the next time.

Despite all his bravado with his friends, he wouldn’t dream of straying from Tulip. They both knew him well enough to know this also.

“How is young Tulip anyway?” asked Spencer.

“She’s fine and dandy thanks.”

“No fall outs this week then?” Simon enquired with a grin. He and Tulip had never really got on that well but they tolerated each other for Larry’s sake.

Larry chuckled. “Nope, not yet, I’ve been on my best behaviour.”

“Glad to hear it Lazzy,” Spencer remarked.

Simon remembered something from earlier. “Talking of behaviour, you said Rakesh has been sent down?”

“Yes,” Spencer confirmed, putting his glass down. “He was found guilty of the alleged date-rape on Sunday evening in Border Park and sentenced following both their statements yesterday morning.”

“Jeez!” Simon exclaimed, pausing with his glass between the table and his mouth.

Spencer went on, “Forensic evidence proved there had been intercourse; but the fact that there was no mutual pre-intercourse health scan showing on either of their dat-com straps, pointed toward the fact that consent probably wasn’t given.”

“There always was something I didn’t like about him,” Simon said with a shudder. “What did he get for it?” he added.

Spencer continued. “The Government Jurisdiction Panel took just an hour to find him guilty and sentenced him to ten years without visitation rights and limited privileges.”

“Serves him right!” Simon remarked, thumping his fist down on the table. The now near empty glasses jumped.

“Here here!” agreed Larry. “Filth like that doesn’t deserve any better.”

Over the decades rape figures had plummeted to insignificant numbers in England. Apart from being nearly impossible to get away with; virtual and holographic sex was so realistic now that you could create and sleep with whoever you wanted. The harsh sentences given by the government were a huge deterrent.

“I think we need some more refreshment,” Larry stated, noticing the lack of lager in the glasses.

“Indeed we do,” agreed Spencer.

“Same again mate?” Simon asked Larry.

“Yes mate, don’t mind if I do,” he replied

“And you mate?” Simon directed at Spencer.

“It would be rude not to join you both mate,” he quipped.

“Certainly would mate,” Simon agreed stretching the old ‘mate’ gag further.

“Well, I need to visit the hostelries fine facilities,” Larry said standing up. “I will give old Joshka the nod on the way through.”

“You’re a star mate,” Simon said with a grin.

“The best mate,” Spencer agreed.

“I know mates,” Larry confirmed with a chuckle as he left for the toilet.

They watched him lumber between the tables until he disappeared inside.

Simon asked. “Did you enjoy dinner this evening?”

“Oh!” yelped Spencer. “Bridge is a proper Princess; three times this week she has port a meal over to me!”

“I know,” Simon confirmed. “She’s worried about you; she thinks you’re still off your food.”

“Well, I’ve never really been on it have I,” Spencer joked.

“You know what I mean Spendy,” Simon said with concern. “It’s taken you months to get over your Mum’s passing… you ended up in hospital from dehydration in May.”

Spencer’s eyes filled up. Simon squeezed his hand. “I don’t like to bring it up but we all worry about you; we love you too much to keep quiet.”

“I’m fine Si, honest I am. I was in a bad place back then. Mum wouldn’t want me to feel like this, I understand that now. I’m feeling better day by day. I’m doing this for her.”

“Glad to hear it, you’re not burdening me with the responsibility of looking after Larry and keeping him out of trouble by myself.”

They both laughed.

“Did I hear my name mentioned?” Larry asked as he sat down.

“Yes, and it was all bad.” Spencer joked, wiping his moist eyes with the back of his hand.

They all laughed.

“Do your flies up,” Spencer said with a sigh. “No one wants to see that little thing popping out.”

“You shouldn’t be looking,” Larry replied yanking up the broken zip on his mauve shorts. “You know I only have eyes for Tulip.”

“Purleeease; I’m not that desperate!” Spencer squealed.

They all laughed again.

“Your drinks gentleman,” announced Joshka, appearing at the table.

They thanked him and scanned their thumbs in turn. He left for the bar again with the empty tray.

“You never did tell us properly why you were late,” Larry said

“Or how the first day went at the museum,” added Spencer.

“I didn’t think you were interested,” Simon said with a grin.

He spent the next twenty minutes filling his friends in on how his day had gone. They sat in silence on the whole, butting in sporadically with a question or two. Simon told them everything; omitting the part about the open nights every other Wednesday for the time being. Joshka had brought them their third lager during the conversation.

“That Anna what’s her name sounds like a complete cow!” Spencer declared loudly. “If I ever see her I’ll tell her exactly what I think of her.”

“It’s going to take more than your usual charm and good looks to tame that Chilly Poxy monster,” Larry added. He and Spencer laughed at the nick-name.

Simon took a large mouthful of lager wondering whether he dared to bring up the open night. Not yet he decided.

The sun set over the sea creating a spectrum of beautiful shades above the now darker waters.

Dusk quickly turned the evening into the night, triggering the lunar powered globe-shaped lamps that were dotted about the terrace; the white light they gave off emulating the moonlight itself.

The heat of the day, having soaked into the chunky floor boards, was now released sporadically keeping the temperature on the terrace a steady nineteen degrees.

A further two drinks in forty minutes had created plenty more merriment and mirth among the three friends.

Simon decided that he couldn’t put off his bad news any longer. “I have something else to tell you about Chilly Poxy; something I skipped earlier… something I knew you wouldn’t like.”

The two of them turned to face Simon, their faces straight, suddenly devoid of all humour.

“I wish they did holo-cards for times like these.” Simon smirked, in an attempt to lighten the sudden heavy atmosphere with one of Spencer’s regular and quite fitting expressions. In total contrast from when Spencer used it, neither of his friends so much as smiled; making him feel just that little bit more uncomfortable than he already did.

Simon drained the last of his lager swiftly, putting the empty glass in the middle of the table.

“During the encounter with Chilli Poxy, there was one good bit of news; well at least it started out good anyway.”

His friends sat there in silence watching him.

“There is to be an open evening at the museum starting next week and then running nightly for the next six months. Our wing has been selected to host the evenings. Out of the fifty-six staff Chilly Poxy has picked fourteen people to host the events. I’m one of those fourteen.”

“That’s great news Si!” Spencer said with delight. He reached over and squeezed his friend’s hand. “It’s about time your luck started changing for the better.”

“Thanks Spendy.”

“So where’s the bad news in that then?” Larry asked with a puzzled frown.

“She’s put me down for every other Wednesday.”

Spencer and Larry remained silent for a few seconds while the news sank in.

“Well just tell her you can’t do Wednesdays.” Spencer announced.

Simon sighed. “I tried that and nearly lost the whole gig; she’s got to be one of the most awkward people I’ve ever had to work for. I even offered to do the weekends; she wasn’t having any of it though. She didn’t want to mess up her rota and have staff swapping shifts about; a control thing I guess. The bitch then went on about lack of commitment etcetera, etcetera. I had to backtrack pretty swiftly to save myself from castration there and then. Sorry guys, there was nothing I could do.”

“What a cow!” Spencer said with a flamboyant sigh. “Don’t worry about it Si; you did the right thing.”

“Thanks again mate,” Simon said. He looked over to Larry. “Mate?”

“Yeah, Spendy is right, not a lot you can do when someone has your nuts in a vice.”

“I’m relieved you guys are taking it so well, I’ve been dreading telling you both.”

Larry smiled. “Well it’s him you had to worry about not me,” he said, pointing to Spencer. “He would be the one to slap you about a bit or throw a wobbly.”

“As if!” Spencer replied, dismissing him with the wave of a hand.

Simon went to pick up his empty glass; forgetting for a moment it was empty. “I was thinking those weeks we could switch to Tuesday; if our nights are going to be anything like most weeks, Tuesday night will turn into Wednesday anyway, sort of, if you see what I mean.”

“That’s cool with me mate,” Larry confirmed. “If you want to break the long standing tradition for something better then we have no choice but to go along with it.”

Spencer added. “If you want to stand us up for a woman then we will have to live with that heartbreak and follow your rules… Tuesday it is then, I guess.”

Simon signalled Joshka by holding up three fingers and gesturing to the table. “I was feeling better about it all… briefly.”

“You might have known we wouldn’t let material like this go unused,” Larry quipped. “There’s month’s worth of crucifying you at every opportunity over this.”

“Years probably,” Spencer added.

They all laughed. Simon felt as if as if a great weight had been lifted. “Is Tulip going to be okay with you doing a Tuesday?” he asked, knowing what she could be like.

“You leave Tulip to me,” Larry replied. “She’ll be fine,” he added, trying to convince himself in the process.

Joshka bought the drinks, and then several more after that throughout the evening. The fun and the pranks got more juvenile as the night went on and the lager flowed.

The surrounding tables started to empty one by one as time ticked by.

Simon checked his strap. “Jeez! It’s getting on for 1am!” he announced, trying to focus on the time which seemed to be slightly blurred. He’d had enough to drink. “You guys want another?”

“I think I’ve had enough of this hoshtilereys fine ales for one night.” Spencer slurred, swaying about as if trying to carry out a slow motion hula-hoop action while he tried to put his glass on the table.

“Pair of lightweights!” Larry said with a belch loud enough for people at nearby tables to be startled by.

“Pig!” Simon and Spencer said in unison, making themselves giggle like schooling girls in a room full of boys for the first time.

“I’m just warming up,” Larry lied, feeling as bloated as he sounded. “But if you girls are ready to go then that’s cool with me.”

“I’ll get Joshy to get the antihol in then,” Simon said turning to scour the terrace for their German waiter. “There he is at that table over there, he has his back to us,” Simon informed them, continuing to stare at him in case he should turn their way. He stood up to make himself more visible.

“COOOEEEEE JOSHKA!” squealed Spencer at the top of his voice. The terrace fell silent as Joshka turned round. Simon hadn’t managed to sit down so was standing up for all to see. Joshka nodded his acknowledgement as Simon sat back down.

The terrace’s noise level slowly went back up. Larry and Spencer roared with laughter attracting more attention. Simon’s face was teleporter red, his embarrassment clear for all to see.

He reached over and punched Spencer hard in the arm. “You git!”

This just made the other two laugh even more. Joshka appeared by Simon’s side.

“Three measures of Antihol please,” he said trying to sound coherent. His face felt like it was on fire. His friends were still in hysterics.

“Very good sir,” Joshka said, rounding up the empty glasses from the table. “I vill vurk out the measures for yous now.”

Simon watched him go. “Well we can’t come here again,” he announced to the others a little huffily.

“Lighten up mate, you gotta see the funny side,” Larry said, trying to pull himself together.

“Hmmm,” Simon mused as he watched Spencer helplessly draped all over the table cackling like a witch.

“I’m sure old Joshy knows which one of us is the ’outrageous’ one,” Larry said, doing the mid-air speech marks with his fingers.

“True enough,” Simon agreed. “My voice has never been that high; even as a kid.”

Joshka swiftly returned with three small shot glasses of Antihol. The amount in each had carefully been measured to counteract the quantity of alcohol they had consumed during the evening.

Antihol was free, and was funded by the government in an endeavour to prevent health problems and curb drink related anti-social behaviour; not that you could be outside your own home, or an establishment that was licensed to serve alcohol and be over the permitted allowance of alcohol in your system. The old fashioned idea of a pub crawl had virtually died out decades before because of this legislation. People generally tended to stay in the one place.

The three friends picked up their glasses. “Here’s to Joshka.” Larry proposed, clinking glasses with the other two.

“Joshka!” they toasted in unison.

They downed their Antihol in one and then made their way to the teleporter. The effects of the alcohol had already started to wane rapidly as they stood patiently waiting for the first free slot.

“It’s been a blast as ever guys,” Larry said, putting his arms around the other two.

“I just love our Wednesdays,” Spencer said, kissing Larry on the side of the face.

“Shame Si plans to stand us up every other week,” Larry replied quickly.

“Blah blah blah,” Simon said rolling his eyes.

They chuckled. The teleporter’s door opened. “This is me,” Simon announced. He hugged them both and jumped in. “See you next Tuesday, if not before,” he added as the door slid shut.

Eleven seconds later he arrived back home. He headed straight for the bedroom, flopped down on his bed and lay on his back thinking about the day. He was shattered. Today had been long and stressful at times and it had taken its toll on him.

Anonymous audio diary 199

Discovered in 2087during the extension of the Moscow Kalininskaya metro line

It is with deep regret that this entry begins with my failure … I am at a loss for words…

Not only did I fail, I came close to capture, very close… I am lucky to have escaped; I can’t bear to contemplate the consequences had that happened… how would I have explained my identity and my decrepit appearance?

How could I have predicted C’s tampering? All my planning couldn’t have predicted that; who knows what the implications of my detection will be. This isn’t going to bode well; there will undoubtedly be an investigation – I have inadvertently made things spectacularly worse.

That mendacious monster is to blame for this; what man could have resisted her allure?

She is the human equivalent of the black widow, only she doesn’t consume her mate; she tears them apart limb by limb leaving them alive to witness the destruction of everything and everyone they have. I actually hate her… I’ve had years to contemplate the events of that night, and the days and then years after it… admittedly C’s meddling didn’t help, I blame her too; though she couldn’t have predicted the consequences of that one simple action.

It’s getting late… I must end this entry, T will be keen to hear of my ‘success’; someone else I have let down today...

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